Saturday, July 22, 2023

What's wrong with extending Diablo Canyon's license for one day, let alone 1826 additional days (five years)?

by Ace Hoffman
July 22, 2023

What's wrong with extending Diablo Canyon's license for one day, let alone 1826 additional days (five years)?


It's risking everything and gaining nothing. It gets in the way of progress and could be catastrophic. It wastes time, money and resources, and creates permanent problems future generations will have to deal with  -- even without an accidental release of radiation, the containers will still need to be maintained at least until a permanent solution is found -- and for hundreds of years AFTER that, since there is so much waste already which will have to be moved there. But where is there? Nowhere. No one wants the waste, and no one ever will.

We already have a state law in California which should have caused Diablo Canyon to close down years ago. The law forbids "new" nuclear reactors in California until and unless a solution to the waste problem is found -- outside of California. But decades later, mountains of nuclear waste remain on site with NO foreseeable solution.

Instead, California has had to make long-term arrangements to continue to store the used reactors -- the old reactor cores -- on site at each commercial reactor location.  Permanently. Billions of dollars has been spent storing existing waste in multiple locations around the state. The containments are thin-walled and in some cases are likely to be shoddily constructed. Holtec, for example, a major cask manufacturer and decommissioning corporation, has been cited repeatedly for various acts of negligence and non-compliance. So has PG&E.

None of it is safe from accidental airplane strikes or from terrorism (including using airplanes as weapons), or from war or social unrest, and much of it is also liable to be damaged (and released) in floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, or other natural phenomena. And don't discount asteroid impacts, either! An asteroid the size of the Empire State Building flew by earth (closer than the moon's orbit) just a few days ago!

These used reactor cores are called "spent fuel" but let's be honest: They ARE nuclear reactors! Nothing else makes a nuclear reactor a nuclear reactor! We could boil water in a pressure vessel a thousand different ways. We can turn turbines likewise! Wind, wave, flowing water...all collect energy safely from the environment and significant waste, and certainly nothing even a millionth as hazardous as nuclear spent fuel.

Nuclear reactors, on the other hand, are discarded regularly. They are only used ONCE, and then THROWN AWAY. But there is nowhere to "throw" them (long ago, so-called "experts" even considered launching nuclear waste into space (see my compendium of attempts at handling nuclear waste in the past, linked and included below)).

Reactors only last about 3 to 5 years. That's right! The reactor cores are "depleted" or "burned up" but they look the same, and weigh almost the same amount, and are still very much in existence. So it's NOT "fuel" or certainly just "fuel" -- it's the reactor itself!

Used reactors must be stored forever as highly toxic nuclear waste. By far the most toxic substance on earth! It wasn't very pleasant to begin with, but after being "used" it is somewhere between a million and ten million times more toxic, per pound. Or more precisely, per lethal milligram or microgram, and there are already millions of pounds of it. We don't need any more.

Nuclear power creates nuclear waste. The electricity it can provide for a fleeting moment is practically inconsequential compared to the problems created by the waste.

So why, if there is a law forbidding "new" nuclear reactors until the waste problem is solved (which can never happen completely) are the old reactors okay?

Because they were "grandfathered in." That's it. That's the only reason. And yet that was more than 40 years ago! Since then the OLD reactors have been RELICENSED once already -- and that contradicts the spirit and intent and, frankly, the meaning of the state law!

Besides, not only do we not need Diablo Canyon's power -- we've added many times that much, many times in the past -- but with clean energy alternatives (including "off-grid" alternatives that are becoming more and more commonplace). So have many other countries, and we -- and they -- are doing so now, and can do so easily again and again and again in the future -- not only do we not need Diablo Canyon, it IMPEDES clean alternatives!

For example, offshore wind in the Diablo Canyon area would be very easy to construct and could easily power the entire state. And the grid connections are already there! But Diablo Canyon is using them at the moment.

Offshore wind energy in that area could provide at least as many jobs as Diablo Canyon could provide, and if the goal is set soon enough, it would be replacing Diablo Canyon permanently very soon. We could have started yesterday. Instead we are wasting billions on the biggest risk to Californians in history: Two operating old nuclear reactors! Maintenance has been put off because they were expected to close: How many months (or years) of the five-year extension will they be inoperative for? One of them "needs" a new reactor pressure vessel: If that's NOT a "new" reactor, and the "fuel" assemblies are NOT a "new" reactor," then what IS a "new" reactor under the state law?!? And why was relicensing of these old behemoths NOT prohibited by the state law in the first place? (The answer to that is probably because the reactor companies assured the public that wouldn't be necessary since they were ONLY going to be used as an "interim" solution to cleaner forms of energy.)

Tens of thousands of people protested Diablo Canyon's being built -- for good reason.

Every day we wait to shut Diablo Canyon risks a Chernobyl or Fukushima (or another Santa Susana) right here in California. For what? To get in the way of renewables!

Shut it down. Shut it down today.

Ace Hoffman
Carlsbad, California

The author has studied nuclear issues for more than 50 years. He has a collection of over 600 books on nuclear topics and has spoken at several hundred public hearings including the CPUC, CEC, NRC, DOE and other local, state and federal agencies.


[Will add the full text of the above link to the final submission the CPUC]

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